Another Year Almost Complete!
As we close out 2013 you may have an older pet, that like all of us didn't get any younger this year! There are a lot of misconceptions about Senior Pet Care and even when a pet "becomes" a senior. The information we are sharing today is direct from The Camden Hospital for Animals website. Please feel free to visit the full site for more information on all life stages and wellness care for your pets. We are proud to be an Accredited member of the American Animal Hospital Association and are a Certified Cat Friendly Practice.
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Senior Pet Care
Older pets have special health needs and may require more attention and care than younger pets. As your pet ages, changes occur in his physical condition that warrants more frequent visits to the veterinarian. If medical problems are recognized and treated when they are first detected, the treatment may be easier for your pet and less costly for you. Twice-a-year wellness examinations are recommended for older dogs and cats to potentially diagnose medical problems in the early stages.
A geriatric exam is more extensive than a simple check-up and includes a complete physical exam, oral and rectal examinations and recording of body weight and body condition. Your veterinarian also examines your pet's ears, eyes, and various internal organs. Some laboratory work may be done, including a complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal exam, and perhaps endocrine blood tests and other complementary examinations. Establishing a base line is an added benefit and can ultimately help your pet should there be any changes, even small ones, to your pet's health.
The aging process varies between species and specific breeds as well as individual animals. Most cats become seniors slightly later than dogs, between their eight and tenth year, whereas dogs, dependant upon breed size could be considered a senior as early as 5 years or as late as 10 years. Even though cat owners may disagree, this is one area where dogs present more complexity than cats! As a general rule, owners should start to consider their cat as senior around 10 years and 6-8 years for dogs.
Everyone has heard the myth about "dog years," which, in other words, means that a dog ages 7 years for every year of its life. This would mean that a 3-year-old dog's age is equivalent to that of a 21-year-old person and a 10-year-old dog's age would be equivalent to that of a 70-year-old person...and so on. The truth is that the relationship is a little more complex. Different breeds age at different rates dependant upon their size.
As dogs and cats grow older, their organs may become less efficient and they may be less able to resist infections and other diseases. As a responsible pet owner, you want your pet to remain healthy and active for as long as possible so it is important to be aware of any condition that may warrant your veterinarian's attention. Unfortunately for multi-species homes, signs of aging can be different in dogs and cats, making it doubly important to learn what to look for, however, many of the signs are similar to the aging process in humans making aging in general a little easier to recognize.
General Tips for Your Aging Pet
There are several reasons why a special diet may be needed for an elderly pet. He or she may be less active than a younger animal, and therefore may require fewer calories. The diet may be more appropriate. Phosphorus and protein content may need to be decreased if your pet has kidney problems. Under certain circumstances the vitamin and mineral needs of elderly pets may be different from those of younger animals. Some of the special senior diets have mineral and vitamin content carefully adjusted to help provide the appropriate balance for elderly pets that have failing kidney or heart function.
As your pet gets older, joint pain and stiffness may develop. This may mean that your pet becomes less active and his energy level may decrease. He may become tired more easily and want to nap more often. Dogs with arthritis should still be exercised; however, they may need a diet containing fewer calories to prevent them from putting on weight.
Hearing, sight and smell can all become less acute with age and you may need to make allowances for these changes. Unfortunately, hearing aids and contact lenses still have yet to be fit for pets. Watch for signs of impaired sight such as bumping into furniture or loss of hearing if your pet stops reacting to its name or command. Eye infections, cataracts, decreased night vision, or even blindness is common, however, these can also be symptoms of a larger problem. Your veterinarian can help you distinguish between the normal aging process and an acute problem.
Older pets are more likely to develop tooth and gum conditions. If your pet has sore gums or loose teeth, he may be reluctant to eat or it may cause food to drop out of his mouth. Gum disease not only leads to loss of teeth, but can also cause heart and kidney infections if bacteria enter the bloodstream through the inflamed gums. Examine your pet's mouth regularly and ask your veterinarian for advice if the teeth or gums do not look healthy.
Often associated with hormonal imbalance in spayed females or a disorder of the nervous system that controls bladder function, urinary incontinence or inappropriate urination is common in an aging pet. Inappropriate urination may also be the result of a urinary tract disorder, prostate problem or symptomatic of a larger problem. Consult your veterinarian if your pet suddenly becomes incontinent or begins to urinate more frequently.
As your pet ages, his behavior may change significantly. You might interpret this as simple aging, but it actually might be due to a treatable geriatric disease, such as cognitive dysfunction. Some typical signs include confusion, disorientation, decreased activity, changes in the sleep / wake cycle, loss of house-training, or signs which suggest a decrease in your dog's interest in, or ability to interact with his environment or with you.
Excessive thirst and frequent or uncontrolled urination are often signs of kidney problems or diabetes. Since the kidneys process and eliminate body waste products into the
urine, it is important that these organs remain healthy. If your pet's kidneys are not functioning properly, your veterinarian may recommend a diet specially designed for kidney problems. These diets contain a low phosphorus level (to slow down the progression of the disease) and a lower protein level to reduce the build up of harmful waste products in the blood.
Even if your pet seems perfectly healthy, regular geriatric check-ups are important to manage many of the changes associated with aging. Dogs and cats over seven years of age should be examined by a veterinarian twice a year. A complete geriatric health maintenance program can provide a means to target age-related health problems, institute preventative health care measures, and detect any disorders early enough to provide appropriate medical treatment. Pets can be the most rewarding when they reach middle or old age; they know you, have a special routine, and have spent years as a companion to you. Maintaining the health of your aging pet is a part of your mutually beneficial relationship and can provide both of you with many more years of love and companionship.